Update from our CEO | July 2022 | Celebrating 40 Years!

Dear Friend of the Museum,

Is it the end of 40 or the beginning of 40? As the Discovery Museum celebrates the 40th anniversary of our founding, are we looking forward? Are we celebrating our history, or our future?

Well…yes. Our history IS our inspiration. The successes of our past are the guideposts for our continued journey—the markers of what made us who we are. They are the fuel for our confidence in what we are yet to achieve. Reasons to celebrate and reason to realize there is much more to do.

Since it is an anniversary year we’ve been digging into our archives to better understand what came before—and seeing that the genesis of many things we are doing today can be found in a yellowed news clip or photo from our past. 

5 teenage girls in matching tshirts display a science exhibit they created; circa 1990
Girts Get SET, 1997

Take for example our exhibit Picture Yourself: Women in STEAM, launched last fall. I can trace its roots back to the Girls in Engineering project in the late 1990s, followed by Girls Get SET a few years later, and then SMART Gals a decade later, which continues today. The need for representation has only broadened over time: the early focus on girls and STEM became an effort to encourage gender and ethnic diversity in the future STEAM workforce. And yes, STEM became STEAM over time as well.

a boy wearing noise-cancelling headphones interacts with the Museum's AirPlay exhibit
Especially for Me, 2022

We take pride in the accessibility strides we have made. Our free Especially for Me events for families with kids with learning differences and disabilities are offered more than 25 times per year; during the pandemic we expanded our commitment to our EFM families to provide them free Museum memberships to visit any time. This access initiative also has roots in the past. Looking back in our archives, we see the creation of an audio guide to support Museum visits in 1987; students with special needs visiting the Science Museum in the early 1990s; and the first dedicated family nights in 2004. Through this work to become welcoming to more, we have learned that Universal Design and access benefits us all.

Conveying our knowledge of early learning to parents and caregivers is an important way for us to impact children. Our recent initiative working with incarcerated young fathers to strengthen their parenting skills and help maintain their bonds with their children is a project that builds on our history. While our Prison Partnership Project with MCI Concord and Concord Prison Outreach is innovative in its approach and bold in its audience, it has its roots in the Young Parent Program in the 1990s and the Parent & Child Workshops in the early 2000s. Supporting parents and caregivers—as children’s first and most impactful teachers—has always been important.

several children stoop to explore a very large, partially melted, 300lb block of ice that is sitting on the ground
Ice Adventures, 1984

Some of our more recent work focuses on enhancing families’ understanding of and commitments to sustainability. Our Museum-wide 5-Year Sustainability Plan; our investment in becoming 100% solar electric; and our environmental education efforts through exhibits, visitor programs, and the Discovery Museum Speaker Series all have roots in our past. In the 1980s we had the Museum Environmental Team, and in the 1990s we had a Pond Team of nature explorers, STEM summer camps, and a special Natural Connections after-school program series. Our early commitment to installing permeable pavement, getting kids outdoors to connect with nature, and the creation of Discovery Woods all serve as the foundation of Discovery Museum’s leadership on sustainability today. And excellent public programs for exploring the natural world, such as today's Cold As Ice, where visitors use coins, salt, food coloring, tools, and more to explore the properties of a 300 pound block of ice, began in the early 1980s as Ice Adventures.

Writing on the occasion of our 20th Anniversary, Museum education directors Denise LeBlanc and Lauren Kotkin highlighted the core values of the Museum, “to provide positive experiences for visitors; to uphold the importance of inquiry and discovery; and to support life-long learning.” They noted that Discovery Museum is a place where learning happens through play, as families here experiment, invent, pretend, and take risks. Deb Gilpin, Executive Director at the time, notes that the Museum was “locally cherished and internationally recognized” for our work.

As we mark 40 years, we aspire to be similarly appreciated for our impact, and are committed to the same strongly-held values.

Let’s celebrate!

We have many great events scheduled to celebrate our 40th and to thank you and all of our community for 40 years of support!

graphic that says "Discovery After Dark" with event information

Can you join us for any of these:

July 16, 6:30pm | Discovery After Dark, a 21+event – It’s grown-up time at the Museum! Enjoy live Caribbean steelpan music, drinks, food, and FUN. Indoors and outdoors; advance ticket purchase required.

July 21, 7:30pm STEM + Movie Nights on the Lawn #2  – Enjoy hands-on STEM activities and then settle in to watch "FernGully" on our lawn. Free. Museum building will be open only for restroom use. No registration required. Rain date is Friday, July 22.

June – August | Patio Performances – Inclusive performing arts events on our patio, free with admission. Registration required to visit.

Exploring China: The “Middle Kingdom” Through Music & Story, August 3

Jazz performance by Berkshire Hills Music Academy, August 19

August 11, 7:00pm STEM + Movie Nights on the Lawn #3 – Enjoy hands-on STEM activities and then settle in to watch "Hidden Figures" on our lawn. Free. Museum building will be open only for restroom use. Rain date is Friday, August 12.

September 10, all day | Free Community Day! – Join us with free admission and enjoy activities, food trucks, birthday cake, a parade, and more! Registration required to visit. Free.

October 1 – 31 | Play Like It’s 1982! – Join us any day in October, the month of our founding, and pay just $2.50 admission. Registration required to visit.

So please come join us for one of the many events we have planned for this celebratory year. For those of you looking for a fun adult-only event, book a babysitter and join us outdoors and indoors for Discovery After Dark on July 16th—with a pizza truck, drinks, scavenger hunt, prizes including Red Sox tickets, ice cream, and Caribbean steelpan music—this is going to be fun!

There is also one other special way that we are marking our 40th anniversary: a celebration of the millions of young people who have come through our doors and gone on to inspire us. We launched the Discovery Museum Scholarship this year, in recognition of high school students who most embody the values of the Museum. We were thrilled to receive 158 applications from students throughout Massachusetts. From their impressive applications we learned a lot about what the Discovery Museum meant to these young adults while they were growing up, and what they have done and plan to do to continue learning and support their communities.

We are proud to announce the 2022 Discovery Museum Scholarship recipients:

  • Ajax Benander, Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School
  • Myles Braverman, Westford Academy
  • Sunithi Krishnan, Acton-Boxborough Regional High School (and Discovery Museum Explorer!)
  • Cara Murphy, Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science

We have a lot to celebrate, and more to do to reach our goals. I welcome your thoughts and reflections on our 40 years, past and future—write me at ngordon@discoveryacton.org.

Happy birthday to us!

Neil Gordon